Removing thatch from your lawn might not be something you currently have on your to-do list, but it likely should be. If the layer of thatch becomes too thick, it can cause problems in a lawn. Fertilizing too much in combination with not using a bagger usually allows grass clippings to build up too much. Thatch cannot easily be removed as it is a tough layer of debris, so you’ll need to hire someone with a dethatcher to come and remove it for you. If you have about a half-inch of thatch you can get away with annual dethatching in the spring. Those with more than a half-inch of thatch should consider dethatching in the spring and fall. Thatch keeps air, water and nutrients from getting to the soil and increases the chances you’ll have lawn disease and insect issues.
Professional lawn service calls can easily cost a couple hundred bucks for a single dethatching service. The good news is that you can intervene and dethach your own lawn. Your local big box stores should have consumer class dethatchers in-stock for under $200 that get the job done and will end up saving you money over the years. One of the models on the market is the WORX WG850 14-inch electric dethatcher that runs $141.37 shipped (buy at Amazon).
Here is what all the parts look like when you remove them from the retail packaging. The instructions are good enough and the only tool required for assembly is a Philips screw driver. A small 0.9 bushel collection bag is included, but usually it is easier to skip this and to suck everything up with the bagger on your push or riding mower.
Assembly was simple and it took only about five minutes to complete. We put the two wing nuts for the foldable handles on the inside of the frame on purpose. The directions show them being on the outside, but over the years they always seem to hit or get snagged on something.
The WORX WG850 is not self-propelled, but it only weighs 18.6 lbs and is not that hard to push.
WORX includes a foam grip handle cover to cushion your hands during use. Ours review sample came with a crack in the foam, so this is something you’ll want to keep an eye on if you buy one of these units. This dethatcher comes backed by up to a 3-year warranty. Why did we say “up to” 3-years? In order to get the full 3-year warranty you must register your WORX item within 30 days of purchase. Otherwise you’ll end up with a 2-year warranty against faulty materials or workmanship.
The WORX WG850 has over a dozen spring-loaded tines that spin on the cylinder head. These tines are what remove the thatch that built up around the base of the grass in your lawn. It would be awesome if a cylinder for a scarifier could be put on this model, but we couldn’t find such an option for this WORX model. Scarifying your lawn actually cuts grass roots and encourages growth for thicker, healthier turf.
That said, these tines should last for many years and will likely not need to be replaced. Removing the tine reel involves removing a hex key and then you can take each tine segment apart. It looks like a rather simple task, but it would be time consuming.
The no load speed on the cylinder head is 3,500 RPM, which is actually impressively fast considering it is 14-inches in length. If you hit something you aren’t supposed to the the spring loaded design will help limit the damage done. You’ll want to remove all that you can from your yard before you dethatch and watch out for sprinkler heads and other hidden obstacles!
Each wheel has 3 depth adjustments that can be made and this is important to ensure good dethatching results. The three settings are -9mm (3), -3mm (2) or +3mm (1).
With the top of the dethatcher removed you can see the 12A electric motor and a bag of sand. The sand helps add weight to the machine to ensure the it stays on the ground and doesn’t bounce around as you move it along. Having a powerful ‘engine’ is important and this 12A electric motors it about as big as you’ll get for a consumer product as this pulls around 1,400 Watts.
The electric motor connects to belt that spins the tine cylinder. Why are we showing you this? This belt might break years from now and can easily be replaced for under $10. To change it out you need to remove some Philips screws on the top cover and the electric motor. It isn’t too tough, so if things stop working be sure to look here before throwing it away!
The electric motor cover has a couple vents with filters that will need to be periodically cleaned.
WORX includes an extension cord hanger with the WG850 that keeps the power cable from coming unplugged from the extension cord during use. You’ll want to make sure you use a heavy duty extension cord with any dethatcher as they pull a ton of power from the wall outlet. WORX recommends no thinner than a 16 gauge extension cord for the this 12 Amp model for cords under 50 feet. Going up to a 100 foot extension cord means you’ll need a 14 gauge wire and that recommendation increases to 12 gauge for 150 feet.
Our yard is mostly fescue and we did a couple passes and got a nice little pile of thatch raked together to show for our hard work. We then found out that we were doing it all wrong as we needed to mow the lawn lower than the standard ‘3’ setting that we mow on. We lowered down to a ‘2’ setting and the WORX WG850 worked much better. We also figured out that going back and forth over the same section would get a good amount of thatch up. We then used the lawn mower to bag all that and were very pleased with the result. WORX recommends mowing your lawn at half of the normal cutting height as the lower cut will allow the Dethatcher to work more effectively. Our lawn is mostly fescue and the thatch wasn’t that bad.
We let a friend with bluegrass try out the WORX WG850 and he said that he could have filled up several yard waste bins with everything it pulled out. So, be prepared to have plenty of lawn bags before hand if you have to bag everything up for proper disposal. Our only other advice is to make sure you don’t stop for any period of time while the tines are spinning as it will leave an indentation in your lawn from where it sat.
The WORX WG850 14-inch electric dethatcher works great and is currently available for $141.37 shipped (buy at Amazon). Renting a commercial 20-inch gas powered dethatcher from Lowes currently runs $71 for a 24-hour rental. If you have a smaller yard something like the WORX WG850 will end up saving you money after just a couple uses compared to one you have to go pick up and return as a rental. This is a very straight forward product and the results will only be as good as the time you put into preparation. You need to cut your lawn shorter than normal, make multiple passes in different directions and bag up all the dead grass that is pulled up. It isn’t extremely physically demanding, but you can easily spend an afternoon dethatching a quarter acre lot!
Legit Bottom Line: WORX is not the first brand name that comes to mind for dethatchers, but their model performs well and appears to be extremely user friendly.